“No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.”
To understand the entirety of the passage we have looked at for the last seven days, there is a bit of history you need to know. Over 14 years, the ruling parties and families of Judah were deported to Babylon, culminating in the last deportation of people in 582 BCE. This exile was punishment for the gross abuses and actions of Israel that made the poor poorer and the wealthy even more wealthy. (Does this sound familiar?) The injustices so angered the Lord that He caused Israel to be exiled to Babylon. In 538 BCE, the Persians conquered Babylon, and Cyrus (their king) was made king over Palestine in 536 BCE and issued an edict allowing the captives to go home.
Are we caught up? Good. Moving on…
This ten verse passage (which finishes tomorrow) is the prophet Isaiah telling the exiles that they can come home. A big clue to understanding this is the word “redeemed”. When people were captured during war, they frequently became slaves to the power that captured them. Because the Persians had captured Babylon, they had the power to free them. Hence, the prophet tells the people that they had been redeemed.
John the Baptist uses these words and this imagery to announce the coming of the Messiah because they were words that his intended audience would understand, especially as they had been conquered AGAIN and were sitting under the iron grip of the Roman Empire. It had only been a little over 500 years since Cyrus set the captives free in Babylon, and there were definitely people who wanted Rome and its puppet kings out of there.
What this passage from Isaiah tells me is that God can use just about anything to redeem His people. He used a foreign power to bring the exiles home, and He sent His Son to die and redeem us from sin and death. In this season of waiting and hoping, it gives me so much comfort to know that God can use anything in my life redemptively.
Lord, thank you for the way you work in the world and in our lives. Amen.